Wrestlers from Alberni District Secondary School and EJ Dunn Middle School returned home Saturday with lots of hardware and accolades from the BC Secondary School Wrestling Championships in Abbotsford.
The weekend was full of many highlights. Alberni had 10 wrestlers place in the top six of their respective weight classes. Grade 12 ADSS senior Nolan Badovinac won the 84 kilogram in dominant fashion, and teammate Michel Kurucz took silver at 60kg on the girls side losing a hard fought final 10-9.
As a team the Alberni Armada finished third in the overall aggregate race, fourth in the Boys division and sixth in the Girls to maintain their incredible streak of top finishes at the BC’s over the past 32 years.
ADSS team captain Nolan Badovinac had an outstanding performance at the BC Championships enroute to his gold medal. Badovinac only had one point scored on him throughout the tournament and that was in his 12-1 win in the final against a very strong Amtosh Dhaliwal of Abbotsford Traditional. Badovinac was a runner up for the Most Outstanding Male Wrestler of the tournament.
Coach James Messenger gave the following summary of Nolan’s performance on the weekend. “Nolan won all of his matches by technical superiority in the first round. None of his preliminary matches lasted much more than a minute. Nolan achieved his goal of becoming a BC High School Champion. His injuries last year were disappointing and he faced more than his fair share of adversity. It was great to see his hard work and dedication rewarded today. He has a bright future in this sport and is arguably the number one ranked recruit for university teams across Canada right now.”
Nolan’s teammate and fellow Grade 12 grad Michel Kurucz also had a great tournament. Kurucz led the Armada Girls with a silver medal in the 60 kilogram girls division. “Both Michel’s semi final and final matches were very exciting. She is a goer, who is not afraid to take risks. You can never count her out of any match,” assessed ADSS Head Coach John McDonald. In the semi final Michel pinned her opponent late in the final seconds of the match to complete a come from behind win. She came close to doing the same thing in the final against WJ Mouat’s Pravi Dhaliwal falling just one point short. When the final buzzer rang the score was 10-9 in favor of Dhaliwal. The match was voted the most exciting finals match by tournament officials.
The Armada had two wrestlers finish with bronze medals, one a seasoned veteran and the other a young up and comer. The veteran was Grade 12 Remi Wells who finished with the bronze medal in the 57 kilogram girls division. Wells suffered a disappointing loss in the preliminaries but battled back to win the bronze medal in dominating fashion.
“I was really impressed by Remi’s mental focus and toughness this weekend, especially on the consolation side,” commented Coach John McDonald. “I was not sure how she would battle back after the loss. It is sometimes hard to regain your focus. The loss only made Remi hungrier and focused. She dominated the bronze final winning by technical superiority over Murrin Bewick from Ucluelet.”
The up and comer was ADSS rookie Ravi Manhas, who took the bronze medal in the 38 kilogram boys division. “Ravi picked the right time to shine,” stated Coach Chris Bodnar. “Ravi is a dedicated member of our team but we did not necessarily expect him to win a medal. It is sometimes hard to gauge where he is at with his development. At smaller tournaments we often have to move him up weight classes to get matches. Giving up a few kilos when you only 38 kg clearly makes a difference. Ravi’s wrestling really impressed me. He was consistently able to dominate his opponents with his turns on the ground.”
Fellow Grade 9 wrestler Aaron Badovinac also turned in an impressive performance with a fourth place finish in a tough 63 kilogram boys division. The younger Badovinac lost a tough semi final to the eventual champion Navdeep Dhillon from Abbotsford Traditional. He battled back to win a match on the back side and lost a heart breaking bronze final, surrendering a one point lead in the final seconds.
“Aaron was in a tough weight class and you have to put in perspective that he is only in Grade 9. Most of his opponents were in Grade 11 and 12. Aaron will be a threat to win this tournament over the next three years,” concluded Coach Russ Bodnar.
The Armada had four additional wrestlers finish sixth in their respective weight classes; Isaac McDonald (48 kg), Emma McGowan (64 kg), Johannes Kulich (66 kg), and Dean Leyland (74kg). All four wrestlers lost close matches, where one or two points would have moved them into the medals.
For senior Dean Leyland the final result was not what he hoped for as he lost a close 6-4 match in the semi to be denied a shot in the final. Unfortunately Leyland also tweaked his back and it severely limited him the rest of the way and he had to settle for 6th place. “Dean is a wrestler with tremendous heart and desire and it was upsetting for him not to be able to be 100% to take a medal. We couldn’t be more proud of him, his effort and of his entire high school wrestling career,” commented Alberni Wrestling Director Tom McEvay.
Grade 12 wrestler Johannes Kulich has to be considered one of ADSS’s most dedicated athletes and their coaches were thrilled with his top 6 finish. “Johannes has come so far in his 6 years of wrestling. He is so well liked and respected by everyone that we were all excited to see him wrestle well at the BC’s. His character and positive attitude will be missed on this team next year,” said ADSS assistant coach Jeanette Badovinac.
Wrestling like a veteran but only in her second year, grade 12 Emma McGowan came back from a knee injury that had kept her out of action for over a month. “Emma showed tremendous courage and determination to wrestle at the BC’s and to pull off a top 6 under those circumstances says a lot about her character,” said McEvay
Grade 9 wrestler Isaac McDonald found himself in a very deep weight class with multiple returning BC Champions. “Isaac would have liked to finish a few steps higher on the podium. He certainly has the potential to beat anyone in BC and he wrestled tough at the BC’s to make the top 6. We are all excited about Isaac and the potential of our current junior wrestlers over the next few years,” said Coach Richelle McKenzie. McDonald and the young Badovinac are two top prospects for BC’s Western Canada Games cadet aged team this summer.
Despite only being in Grade 8, EJ Dunn Middle School’s Kylea Anderson finished sixth in the 75 kilogram girls division. “Kylea is a hard worker and together with the other middle school wrestlers moving up to ADSS will certainly add to strength of the Armada Program in the coming years,” commented EJ Dunn Coach Emma Vanderlee.
In the team competition Abbotsford Traditional took the Men’s title followed by WJ Mouat of Abbotsford and John Oliver of Vancouver. Saint Thomas Moore of Burnaby won the Girls title followed by Ucluelet Secondary and Centennial of Coquitlam. Saint Thomas Moore again claimed the Aggregate title. Torrey Torribido of John Oliver was named the Most Outstanding Male and Jacqueline Lew of Pinetree was named the Most Outstanding Female.
As the season draws to a close the Armada Wrestling team prepares to graduate nine senior members of their team. Russell David, Jarrod Beckett, Johannes Kulich, Dean Leyland, Nolan Badovinac, Lauren Barker, Remi Wells, Michel Kurucz, and Emma McGowan all graduate this year. “There is no doubt we are going to miss the large and special group of young people graduating from our program this year. We are incredibly proud of every one of them. These athletes have really bought into what our program is about. Yes we develop wrestlers but more importantly we want to develop good human beings. It is inspiring to see how much each one of them has grown. Fortunately, they have done a great job of instilling these values in our juniors coming up. I am confident the tradition will continue. It is going to be a very emotional Wrestling Awards Night on April 30th when we hear from each of the 9 graduating wrestlers,” concluded Tom McEvay.
The BC Championships officially wraps up the High School Season. A handful of wrestlers have been invited to participate in training and competitive opportunities with Team BC over the next few months. Most will turn their attention to developing their athletics skills by playing other sports. Nolan Badovinac will be travelling to Ontario to compete in the Junior (under 21) National Championships March 20 – 22. Nolan along with teammates Michel Kurucz and Aaron Badovinac will be travelling with Team BC to Fredericton New Brunswick to compete in the Cadet/Juvenile National Championships April 9 – 12. Local wrestling families and supporters need to put April 30th on their calendar for the 37th Annual Wrestling Awards Night at the Italian Hall.
Submitted by the Alberni Valley Wrestling Club.